You Can Be Fired for Using Legal Pot—at Home: Court

Colorado Court of Appeals rules against Brandon Coats

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 26, 2013 8:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Now that marijuana use is legal in Colorado, you can smoke it during your free time without worry, right? Wrong. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that you can still be fired if you test positive for marijuana, even if you've never been stoned while on the job. Brandon Coats brought the case after he was fired as a Dish Network telephone operator; he is a medical marijuana patient and had tested positive. But the appeals court sided with the employer after concluding that for an activity to be "lawful" it "must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law," NBC News reports.

"This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical-marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law," said Coats' lawyer in a statement. He added that the three-judge panel—which was divided in its decision—simply did the "safe thing," as it was likely wary of issuing a major reversal so soon after marijuana was legalized in the state. He plans to appeal.

In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo Brandon Coats poses for a photo at his home in Denver.
In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo Brandon Coats poses for a photo at his home in Denver.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
A 1/4 ounce, left, and one ounce of marijuana are pictured along with a handful of joints at a dispensary in Denver on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.
A 1/4 ounce, left, and one ounce of marijuana are pictured along with a handful of joints at a dispensary in Denver on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
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